Navigating Twitter by “Looking Unto Jesus”

Twitter and the blogosphere linked to it seem to erupt afresh every week with some new controversy.  Last week, it was so–called “evangelicals” who blew up the digital landscape over what the esteemed Eugene Peterson said, or didn’t say, in an interview originally scheduled for different purposes.  I texted a friend last Thursday that “there’s way too many knee–jerk reactions on Twitter, and not enough grace”!  The next day I posted the image above on Instagram, along with these words … “Best way to navigate social media storms.”

England’s “Prince of Preachers” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), wrote daily devotionals for both morning and evening.  His morning selection for June 28th is based on this passage, Hebrews 12:2 … and offers sound counsel for our current day as well.

  • It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.
  • Satan insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.
  • But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore …
  • It is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ.
  • It is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ.
  • It is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument – it is Christ’s blood and merits.
  • Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ.
  • Look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope.
  • Look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.
  • We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.”
  • Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind.
  • When thou wakest in the morning look to Him.
  • When thou liest down at night look to Him.
  • Oh! Let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

 

Here’s a link to Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening devotions.  It’s also located on the right–side navigational bar under the heading “Worth Visiting.”

I’m praying for a safer and saner Twitter landscape this next week!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Appraising this year’s goals at the “Midsummer Classic” break

This past Sunday afternoon, AP published an article from Los Angeles that started with these two paragraphs …

“Clayton Kershaw tossed a six–hitter to become the majors’ first 14–game winner, Justin Turner homered twice, and the NL West–leading Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Kansas City Royals 5–2 to complete their major league–best 10th sweep and sixth straight victory.  The streaking Dodgers head into the All–Star break owning baseball’s best record of 61–29.  They’ve won 18 of their last 19 at home, where they lead the majors with a 39–11 mark.

“Kershaw (14–2) allowed two runs and six hits on 99 pitches, struck out 13, and walked none to set the Dodgers’ record for most wins at the break.  The old mark of 13 was held by Orel Hershiser, who had 13 in 1988, the last time the franchise won the World Series.”

To the casual reader, all this talk of “numbers” may be numbing … but to the avid fan of baseball (especially the Dodgers), these two paragraphs speak volumes.  This is especially true this time of year when the “Midsummer Classic” is scheduled … tonight’s MLB All–Star Game … showcasing the best of the “boys of summer.”

On the opposite coast, New York Yankees’ phenom, Aaron Judge, leads professional baseball’s Major Leagues with 30 home runs.  He has already broken the Yankees’ single–season record for rookies … a record that stood since 1936 and held by the Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.  In the middle of the country, Chicago Cubs’ fans are scratching their heads wondering what’s happened to their defending World Series champs!  The “Cubbies” are struggling to hold onto second–place in a weak division, chasing a dozen Major League teams with better win–loss records than theirs.

The “Midsummer Classic” is traditionally scheduled slightly past the midpoint of the season.  This annual All–Star exhibition game has been played since 1933, with the National League holding a slight edge in victories at 43–42, although the American League has won the last four consecutive games.  There have also been two ties … what?! … why?!

By now, you’re probably asking, “What’s all this baseball talk got to do with ‘equipping & mobilizing men to follow Jesus’” … which is what StrongStakes is all about.  The answer is found in the timing.  The “Midsummer Classic” is a bench–mark that teams and individuals use to evaluate their progress so far, and then appraise what needs to change in order to reach goals set months ago before the season began.

The apostle Paul actually wrote about this in one of his N.T. letters …

  • “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way to win the prize.”  (1 Corinthians 9:24)

If you’re new to this blog, then you may not have read the first article posted last December 30th … Goodbye 2016 … Hello 2017!  The primary point of the article was to approach the new year with intentionality, by reviewing the previous year, then setting realistic goals for the year ahead.  In that post I included links to two down–loadable handouts:

Some of the topics covered included …

  • Healthy character traits
  • Spiritual Disciplines
  • What will we read this year?
  • What damaged or damaging relationships might need to be addressed.
  • Who is it that we might encourage this year?

What better time than right now … a little more than halfway through 2017 … to evaluate our progress so far, and then appraise what needs to change in order to reach goals set before this new year began?

Invest some time reflecting on your progress toward your spiritual goals, using the handouts as prompts or guides.  Maybe even mute the sound on your TV or tablet during the commercial breaks in tonight’s game?  If you’re watching the game with a friend or family member(s), ask them to help you evaluate, too.  The stakes are higher for us in terms of our “spiritual success” than for tonight’s All–Star players.  The apostle Paul continued in his letter with this profound comparison …

  • “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self–control in everything.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)

Enjoy the game!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Converting Cars to “Cocoons of Solitude”

This very brief post invites you to join in a week–long challenge. Convert your auto’s interior to a “Chapel on Wheels” … a space for listening to God.

For the next seven days (after you start), whenever you are driving alone in your car, truck, van or motorcycle, simply turn off the radio, CD, iPod, or phone. Instead, carry on conversations with your Heavenly Father.

You may choose to ask Him for or about things (petition) … or you may pray for other people (intercession) … or you may choose to sing “outbursts of praise & worship” to Him. Better still … simply be quiet and listen to Him.

For the benefit of the rest of us, leave a comment (or two) on this blog regarding what He said to you.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

P.S. The image at the top of this post was my view in high school while driving my first car … a 1962 VW bug! … a classic!

Declaring Our “in – Dependence” on God

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This second sentence of the Declaration of Independence (click for full text) is easily the most recognizable and oft–quoted.

Today we celebrate this Declaration made 241 years ago by 13 English colonies, signed by 56 representatives. This Declaration announced to the world that these colonies regarded themselves as newly independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule, but instead formed as a new nation – the United States of America.

The final sentence of the Declaration is not as well known, yet it set the tone and the standard for how independence would be achieved and preserved:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Amazing! … the “Founding Fathers” literally pledged their lives, their sizeable family fortunes, and their honor to grow and defend a new nation whose future was uncertain.

We celebrate the freedoms that the Declaration of Independence has yielded over the past two centuries plus … but these freedoms are finite and limited by time and geography. The Kingdom established by God offers infinite freedoms lasting for eternity. The Bible declares a hard truth that relatively few people have embraced since God revealed His Kingdom purposes for humankind. God declares that true freedom is found in total dependence on Him.

The Kingdom of God is an “upside–down” Kingdom. Whereas the United States began with a declaration of independence, we enter into God’s Kingdom by declaring our dependence on Him. The following representative Scripture samples from the Law, books of History, Psalms & Proverbs, O.T. Prophetic writings, plus the very words of Jesus, Paul and others reveal the blessings of living in total dependence on God.

Mull over these passages. Study the larger context of each passage. Cross–reference to related passages. Begin drafting your own personal Declaration of “in – Dependence” on God based on His revelation of truth.

  • Exodus 14:13–14 … “But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear!  Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.’”

 

  • Deuteronomy 31:6 … “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.”

 

  • 1 Chronicles 29:12–14 … “Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.”

 

  • 2 Chronicles 14:11–12 … “Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.’ So the Lord routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.”

 

  • 2 Chronicles 20:12, 17, 20 … “O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You … You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you … Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.”

 

  • Psalm 16:8–9 … “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.”

 

  • Psalm 18:1–3, 6 … “I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.”

 

  • Psalm 23:1–3 … “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

 

  • Psalm 40:1–4 … “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord. How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.”

 

  • Psalm 46:1 … “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

 

  • Psalm 62:5–8 … “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”  Selah.

 

  • Psalm 94:17–19 … “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, ‘My foot has slipped,’ Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.”

 

  • Psalm 118:4–9 … Oh let those who fear the Lord say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ From my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a large place. The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”

 

  • Psalm 121:1–3 … “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.”

 

  • Proverbs 3:5–6 … “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

 

  • Isaiah 40:28–31 … “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

 

  • Zechariah 4:6 … “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

 

  • Matthew 6:25–33 … “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

 

  • John 6:66–69 … “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’”

 

  • John 15:5 … “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

 

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 … And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

  • Hebrews 4:16 … “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Over the nearly two and a half centuries since signing the Declaration of Independence, the United States of America has grown in many ways, especially when holding fast to the tenets of this historic document. This is worth celebrating every “Fourth of July”!

As professing followers of Jesus, we also will grow, especially when we hold fast to the simple, clear teachings in God’s Word. This reminds me of a scene in C.S. Lewis’ book, Prince Caspian. One of the main characters, Lucy, encounters Aslan after not seeing him for a long time. Aslan is the Christ–figure of the Chronicles of Narnia stories. Their dialogue proceeds:

“Aslan, you’re bigger,” she says.

“That is because you’re older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Every year we grow in dependence on Jesus, by internalizing the truths about God in His Word, the bigger He will be in our lives.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

More Thriving in “Ordinary Time”

The Christian vocal group Casting Crowns recent hit song “Thrive” includes these lyrics:

Fill our hearts and flood our souls
With one desire

Just to know You and to make You known

~ ~ ~

We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

Click here for a link to Thrive music video.

In my last blog post … Thriving in “Ordinary Time” … we discovered the origins of this season on the church calendar.  One misconception is that Ordinary Time has no theme.  But as we discovered, this season celebrates “the Story of Jesus” fleshed–out into the everyday, ordinary lives of “the People of God.”  This fact makes it a truly “extra–ordinary” season!

Ordinary Time is at the core of what this blog, StrongStakes, is all about … “equipping & mobilizing men to follow Jesus” … so let’s focus now on some practical ideas.

One of the clearest ways to discover what fleshing–out “the Story of Jesus” might look like is to remember how Jesus launched His public ministry career.  The Gospel writer Luke records the scene in chapter four:

  • “He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.  As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:
  • ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
    to set free those who are oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
  • “He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.  And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  He began by saying to them, ‘Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.’” (Luke 4:16–21)

By reading the first couple verses from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah (ch. 61), Jesus quickly and succinctly outlined the primary tenets of His mission.  If He was a politician today (thankfully, no), we would call this His “platform.”

Jesus is introducing what He will later call the “Kingdom of God” … the reign or rule of God over creation and human hearts.  His life, teachings and actions over the next three-and-a-half years expounded these primary themes.

In addition to modeling the Kingdom of God, Jesus invites us to “Come…Follow” … to not only experience this same Kingdom–life, but to also mimic His actions.  These are the activities of Ordinary Time.

The apostle Paul put it this way, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

But this begs the question … What are “good works” we can be doing during Ordinary Time to spread the Good News about the Kingdom of God, while at the same time continue growing stronger in our daily lives of faith?  Following Jesus’ outline, here are some suggestions.

  • “preach Good News to the poor” … Meet with a homeless person.  Offer to purchase a meal for them, then stay for a conversation.  Listen to their story.  Let your actions do the “preaching.”

 

  • “proclaim release to the captives” … Visit someone in jail or prison.  Listen to their story.

 

  • “recovery of sight to the blind” … Visit someone in a hospital – maybe even a stranger.  Ask a hospital administrator if there are patients who have had no visitors.

 

  • “set free those who are oppressed” … Visit someone in a nursing home – again, maybe even a stranger who has no one visiting them.  Or offer to accompany your pastor or priest to serve Communion to a person confined to their home.

 

  • “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” … Experiment by setting aside a whole day to demonstrate God’s grace (favor) to everyone with whom you come into contact.  Maybe a smile is all that’s necessary; or pay for the Starbucks drink for the person in line behind you; or personally deliver a more–than–generous tip (with a smile) to a restaurant server who’s provided decent service.

When it comes to personal, spiritual growth, how about reading daily, lengthy portions from the Gospels in a Bible translation or paraphrase that you’ve not used before?  Or join a small group from your church that meets weekly or bi–weekly?  Or schedule an appointment with an older, wiser man or woman of God.  The American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, once said,

  • “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.”

What specific, practical ideas do you have for fleshing–out “the Story of Jesus” during this season of Ordinary Time?  Leave a comment on this blog with your suggestion(s).

I want to suggest a resource for further reflection.  Nearly four decades ago, my wife and I moved to Mississippi to serve alongside a man who has become legendary in Christian community development circles … Dr. John M. Perkins.  Of the many books that he has written, the one that’s made the most impact on me is A Quiet Revolution.  With the subtitle, “The Christian response to human need, a strategy for today,” John maps out a clear and compelling approach for living in this season called Ordinary Time.  It can still be purchased via third–party sellers on Amazon … which I strongly recommend … click on the title for the link.

One final observation … the Christian symbol often linked to Ordinary Time is the “Chi–Rho” … derived from the first two letters in the Greek word [Χριστός] translated Christ.  In turn this derives from the Hebrew word [מָשִׁיחַ] translated Messiah.  Both words literally mean “anointed One.”  This abbreviation became a symbol used by early Christians to indicate that they were followers of Jesus.  The graphic at the top of this article also includes the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet … Alpha and Omega.  From eternity past to eternity future, Jesus truly is at the center of Ordinary Time!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Thriving in “Ordinary Time”

“Ordinary Time” is a new concept for me … unfortunately.  As I wrote in an earlier post … What happens when an Evangelical practices Lent?  …  I was raised as a “Protestant – Evangelical – Fundamentalist” … so all I ever heard about liturgical holidays were that they were a little too “Roman Catholic” and therefore, off limits.  You can see on the attached graphic that Ordinary Time begins on the Monday after Pentecost, and continues until the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent.

Sometimes called “Trinitytide”  this season includes the entire months of July, August, September and October, plus most or all of June and November.  Put simply, Ordinary Time encompasses half of the Christian year that does not fall within the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter.

Ordinary Time derives from the Latin, Tempus per annum, or “time throughout the year.”  It may also derive from the term “ordinal” meaning “counted time.”  Ordinary Time need not be viewed as “ordinary, average, or mundane” … a “break” from the important days in the church’s liturgical year.  The opposite is actually true … as the graphic depicts, Ordinary Time celebrates “the Story of Jesus” fleshed–out into the everyday, ordinary lives of “the People of God.”  It is truly an “extra–ordinary” season!

Lots of information has been written about the many aspects of Ordinary Time … the length of the season, the representative color for the season (green), the symbol used to depict the season, etc.  In terms of disciple–building, what we will focus on here is what the apostle Paul taught Christians in the Roman city–state of Philippi.  Shortly after stating his life’s purpose in Philippians 1:21, Paul then exhorts his audience to live worthy of the Gospel.

*Pastor Pro–Tip: This will preach!

  • “Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ.  Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mindcontending together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents.  This is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you – and this is from God.  For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same struggle which you saw in me, and now hear that I have.”  (Philippians 1:27–30)

Paul uses a significant Greek word [πολιτεύομαι] to grab his audience’s attention.  It means “to behave as a citizen” which held special meaning for the residents of this outpost of the Roman empire.  It shows up again in noun form in Philippians 3:20 – “For our citizenship is in heaven …”

But Paul’s challenge begs the question … How do we live our life worthy of the Gospel?


Fortunately, Paul continues in the final four verses of chapter one by identifying six factors that will ensure thriving during “Ordinary Time” (highlighted in the text above).

(1) v. 27standing firm” [στήκω] means to persevere, to persist, to keep one’s standing.  Paul uses this strong term in his letter to Corinthian Christians … “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13–14).

We thrive in Ordinary Time by “standing firm” for the Gospel.

 

(2) v. 27one spirit” [πνεῦμα] indicates a unity as deep as the soul.

We thrive in Ordinary Time deeply united with “one spirit” for the Gospel.

 

(3) v. 27one mind” [ψυχή] includes the seat of ones feelings, desires and affections; variously translated as soul, heart, life, or mind.

We thrive in Ordinary Time with “like–minded” people for the Gospel.

 

(4) v. 27striving together” [συναθλέω] means to engage together in a contest; to wrestle in company with another; to contend together for a prize in the public games.  The term implies “working side–by–side.”  We get our English word “athletics” from this term!

A former pastor of mine makes this observation: “Spiritual formation occurs best within the context of community.” Dr. Ken Baugh

Stated metaphorically, “The fabric God is weaving is far bigger than our own thread.” – Kevin Bennie

We thrive in Ordinary Time by “striving together” within the context of community for the Gospel.

 

(5) v. 28no way alarmed” … The Greek word [πτύρω] is used only once in the New Testament, but in other literature it was a term used to describe an uncontrollable stampede of wild horses.  The root word means “to spit” and was also used of military horses who got “spooked” and would snort or spit, but would not flinch.

When we are “standing firm” for the Gospel, “striving together” in community with a unity of spirit and mind, then fear of opposition is minimized and we thrive in Ordinary Time.

 

(6) vv. 29–30suffer for His sake” … Here the apostle uses [πάσχω] which translated means “to suffer a sad plight,”  then adds that they will experience similar conflicts to what he had.  Amazingly, he states that this suffering is actually a gift … “it has been granted” [χαρίζομαι] … rooted in God’s grace!

This theme of necessary suffering for the sake of the Gospel is repeated throughout Paul’s writings (cf., 2 Corinthians 1:6–10 & 2 Thessalonians 1:4–5), Peter’s letters (1 Peter 4:12–19), plus the classic passage in James 1: 2–4 …

  • Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

We thrive in Ordinary Time even when we “suffer for His sake”  experiencing similar conflicts for the Gospel.

 

A final question:  What steps will you take to practically thrive during this extra–ordinary season called Ordinary Time? … this season for fleshing–out the reality of the story of Jesus through the people of God. Leave a comment suggesting one!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Honoring Faithful Fathers

Happy “Father’s Day”!

The first Father’s Day may have been celebrated in the state of Washington on June 19, 1910.  A woman named Sonora Smart Dodd thought of honoring and celebrating her father while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in a church service a year earlier.  She felt that mothers were getting all the acclaim, while fathers equally deserved a day of praise.

By the time you read this blog post, you may have already enjoyed a meaningful day celebrating fatherhood with members of your family … if not in person, then maybe via a phone call, FaceTime, or Skype.

I love this photo of our “family dogpile” … circa 1989!  It vividly reminds me that the Bible has a lot to say to fathers (and mothers) about the importance of passing along to the next generation a legacy of belief and trust in God.

Moses reminded the Israelites on the eve of their entrance into the Promised Land …

  • “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates”  (Deuteronomy 6:4–9).

Notice WHY Moses repeats this instruction …

  • “so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged”  (6:2).

Ethan the Ezrahite, whose wisdom was exceeded only by King Solomon (1 Kings 4:31), expressed a similar sentiment in song …

  • “I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever; to all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.”  (Psalm 89:1)

Solomon himself wrote of the long–term benefits of fatherhood …

  • “A righteous man who walks with integrity – How blessed are his children after him.”  (Proverbs 20:7)

The apostle Paul coupled these recurring themes in his final correspondence to his young mentee, Timothy …

  • “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you”  (2 Timothy 1:5–6a)
  • “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”  (2 Timothy 2:1–2)

Notice the four “generations” listed here: Paul … to Timothy … to faithful men … to others also.

Among the long list of things I learned as an undergrad Christian Education major at Biola University back in the early 1970’s, the following adage stands at the top …

“It’s more caught than taught.”

Jesus illustrated this principle in action, then compared it to how our heavenly Father relates to us …

  • “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven good things to those who ask Him!”  (Matthew 7:9–11)

With a passion for “equipping & mobilizing men to follow Jesus” my prayer is that we grow daily in grace and Christ–likeness, so that our children and grandchildren will mimic us, too.

“I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children walking in truth.”  (3 John 1:4)

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Diving Deeply into Doctrine of Trinity

Are you planning to celebrate the Trinity this Sunday?  How will your church celebrate what many have believed throughout the history of Christendom to be “the most significant day on the Church Calendar”?  Does your church even celebrate events from the historical, liturgical “Church Calendar”? … or is your church calendar simply an online depository for potlucks, small groups, deacons meetings, and retreats?

Although the term “Trinity” never occurs in Scripture, the concept of a “three–in–one God” is found throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Unfortunately, this may be The Most Important Christian Doctrine You Don’t Think About.”  That’s what Kevin DeYoung, pastor, professor and chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition believes in an article by that title.  Click on the title for a link to his article.

Rather than attempting to write an exhaustive defense of this classic Christian doctrine, this blog post will simply offer four resources you can explore on your own, starting with Kevin DeYoung’s article above.

We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come. Amen.

This is the “Nicene Creed,” originally adopted in the city of Nicaea (present–day Iznik, Turkey) by the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.

Kevin Giles is an Australian author and retired Anglican priest who has written,

  • The Nicene Creed is the definitive account of the doctrine of the Trinity for more than two billion Christians.  It is binding on all Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Reformed Christians.  These two billion believers agree that anyone who denies what is taught in the Nicene Creed stands outside the catholic faith, and any community of Christians that rejects what the Nicene Creed teaches is by definition a sect of Christianity.
  • Be assured, I do not place this creed or any other creed or confession above Scripture in authority or on an equal basis with Scripture.  For me, and for two billion Christians, this creed expresses what the church has agreed is the teaching of Scripture.  I believe every single statement in this creed reflects what the Bible says or implies.  In my view, we have in this creed the most authoritative interpretation of what Scripture teaches on the Father–Son relationship.

Giles delivered a lengthy academic address during a plenary session of last November’s meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in San Antonio, Texas.  Present at that session were other speakers whom Giles sought to rebut concerning their views of the Trinity, specifically the interrelationships between all three Persons in the Godhead.  His paper is long and heady at times, but fascinating, and well worth reading.  A link to the address is here: Evangelicals and the Trinity

Ian Paul, from the U.K., researches, writes and speaks from a blogging platform called Psephizo [ψηφίζω], a Greek verb meaning “to calculate, work out or reckon.”  It’s rooted in the noun psephos meaning “pebble,” which would have been used to do such calculations.  A trained mathematician, Ian adds two more resources that will aid your understanding of this vital doctrine of the Trinity:

No matter what your personal faith tradition might be, or how you plan to celebrate it this Sunday, the final four verses of the apostle Paul’s second letter to the churches at Corinth are a fitting benediction for all who are following the footsteps of Jesus …

“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like–minded, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.  Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints greet you.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:11–14)

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Practicing the Power of Pentecost’s Promise

Is the Holy Spirit the Forgotten God in your life?  Francis Chan asks that probing question in a book by that same title.  He continues with a corollary question: When was the last time you undeniably saw the Holy Spirit at work in or around you?

These are logical questions to ask the day after Pentecost Sunday because both imply the necessary “So now what?” that we must always ask after celebrating such a powerful event.  Did you know that’s what yesterday was? … 50 days after Resurrection Sunday?  Did your church celebrate Pentecost?  I worshipped at a church in Portland, Oregon yesterday (well-known for its Bible teaching), along with thousands of other folks, but no mention was made whatsoever of Pentecost … a lost opportunity!

The previous post on this blog … Preparing for Pentecost … focused primarily on the Promise of Pentecost, namely the Holy Spirit.  Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, He hinted at greater things to come for His disciples because of the Provision of the Holy Spirit.

  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.  Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in My name, I will do it.  If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:12–15)

What could this passage mean for us today … Jesus–followers in the 21st Century? … “greater works than these he will do” … what are these “greater works”? … how is it possible for us as human beings to even come close to doing the “works that I (Jesus) do”?

The simplest answer may be found in geography!  Unlike Jesus, Who voluntarily confined Himself to one specific location at a time while ministering on earth, this new “Body of Christ” is spread all around the globe at any specific time, on any given day.

The proverbial “bottom line” is that as Jesus Christ’s “body” we become the visible hands and feet and heart of Jesus to a lost and dying world.
  The indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill this promise made by Jesus to His disciples.

The apostle Paul elaborates further on the Holy Spirit’s Provision in both of his letters to the church in the city of Corinth (I Corinthians 2:1–5, 10–16 and 2 Corinthians 3:17–18).

Jesus also spoke directly to His disciples about the Power of the Holy Spirit.

  • “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you …” (Acts 1:8)

What are some examples of this “power” [δύναμις] … from which we get the word “dynamite”?

  • He convicts
  • He regenerates
  • He baptizes believers into His Church
  • He indwells
  • He seals
  • He illuminates
  • He gives gifts & empowers for service
  • He produces spiritual, character fruit

*For a more complete list, plus supporting Scriptures, click here and download a one–page handout on Pneumatology … the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

“Spiritual Formation” … the life of discipleship … cannot occur without the power of the Holy Spirit.  We may practice a variety of spiritual disciplines to aid this life–long process, but it is the living Spirit of God Who brings transformation of our character.

So now what? … How might we pursue this Holy Spirittransforming life?

  • Ask God to continuously transform our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Psalm 139:23 and I Corinthians 2:6–16)
  • Ask Him to lead us into the truth of His Word.
  • Ask God to point out the areas in our hearts that need to change.
  • Listen for His answers.
  • Ask Him to begin to change anything He brings to our minds.
  • Resolve to give Him space and freedom to begin/continue a work of change within us.
  • Ask for fresh, daily fillings of the Holy Spirit!

We don’t need to wait until next year’s Pentecost Sunday (May 20, 2018) to focus on the Promise, the Provision and the Power of the Holy Spirit as we pursue life, following the footsteps of Jesus.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Preparing for Pentecost

The “Feast of Weeks” … or Shavuot as the Hebrews called it … was traditionally celebrated 50 days after Passover, commemorating God’s gift of the Law … Torah … to hundreds of thousands of Israelites encamped at the base of Mt. Sinai.  This gift signaled to a people on the run from Egyptian captivity that they were now a nation committed to serving their covenant–keeping Jehovah.

Fast–forward centuries later to a confused, but expectant and prayerful group of 120 Jesus–followers, gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate this same Jewish festival … 50 days after the Resurrection of their Messiah.  Ten days had passed since they had seen Him face–to–face … when He had instructed them to “wait for what the Father had promised” (Acts 1:4).  As I wrote in an earlier post … “Navigating 40 Days of Doubt” … they had struggled with doubt and disbelief in the days following Jesus’ resurrection, even though He made multiple personal appearances to them.

Then God kept His promise on that feast day, giving a new, totally different gift … His Holy Spirit … signaling an entirely new entity … the birthing of His Church (Acts 2:1–13).  Invest four minutes right now to listen to this world–changing passage of Scripture [A Pentecost Meditation].

This coming Pentecost Sunday commemorates the coming of the promised and summoned Holy Spirit. Jesus had repeatedly promised this gift … the Comforter, Helper, Paraclete.

  • “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth … you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16–17)
  • But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth …” (John 16:13)

In these three verses penned by the apostle John, four parts of the promise emerge:

1. The promise was for another Helper [ἄλλος παράκλητος] … literally, “another of the same kind or nature”  Who was  “summoned to come alongside to render aid.”

2. The promise transcended time … He would be with them forever [εἰς αἰών] … meaning into an unbroken age, a perpetuity of time, what we call eternity.  This was revolutionary news!  During Old Testament times, the presence of the Holy Spirit was isolated, selective and temporary.  This is how Jesus fulfills another promise He made at the conclusion of His “Great Commission.”

3. Jesus repeatedly uses the phrase, “the Spirit of truth [ἀλήθεια] … indicating that which is objectively true in any matter, at any time, under all circumstances.

4. Finally, the promise was that the Holy Spirit “will guide into all the truth” [ὁδηγέω] … meaning to lead or “go before” on another person’s way or “road.”

As a follower of Jesus in the 21st Century, which of these Holy Spirit promises do you need at the moment?  Intentionally set aside some time this Pentecost Sunday to reflect on the significance of this historic day for your life of discipleship.

Happy Birthday, Church!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr